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Additional NHS trusts look to open source EPR adoption

Neil Merrett Published 26 February 2016

Healthcare organisations in Ramsay, Wye Valley and Blackpool areas expected to adopt non-proprietary solutions as Github-hosted code is further updated


Ramsay Health Care, Wye Valley NHS Trust and Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are set to go live with open source electronic patient record (EPR) solutions during 2016, building on ongoing work by Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.

After first uploading EPR code on the web-based hosting service Github in June 2014, supplier IMS Maxims has sought to provide the open source software free to NHS and wider healthcare organisations.

Late last month, the latest version of the openMAXIMS code was released based on enhancements introduced for the Taunton and Somerset trust, which has been the first organisation to go live with the technology in the UK.

The updated code is said to include features such as pre-operative assessment for theatres, to help ensure patients are fit and ready for surgery, as well as clinical triage of referrals to direct patients to appropriate services based around clinical priority.

Alongside the updated version of the code, IMS Maxims said that it anticipated a busy schedule this year of deployments of the EPR to hospitals operated by Ramsay Health Care, as well as the trusts in Wye Valley and Blackpool.

With the market for using open source approaches to hospital IT systems seen as a relatively new concept, the supplier said that communicating the potential benefits from such an approach for other healthcare providers was a challenge in comparison to proprietary software at present.

Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust's work with the supplier is now expected to serve as an important case study for wider adoption by organisations working in the NHS.

"This has proved that open source is a viable option for NHS trusts, and illustrates the benefit of contributing software enhancements from a wider community of developers. IMS MAXIMS works closely with the openMAXIMS community interest company (CIC) founded by three NHS trusts," said a spokesperson for the group.

"The CIC guides the development of the code to ensure that any enhancements are fit-for-purpose for other healthcare providers who wish to use it."

In looking to address the issue of viability, IMS Maxims argued there remained "some misconceptions" about security and the use of open source software in healthcare.

A spokesperson for the group added that there were no limitations on the types of code that can be shared by providers in an open source format.

"The point is that the code is uploaded from a trusted source, in this case by IMS MAXIMS, who ensure clinical safety standards are met in its software development," said the group.

"Furthermore, the fact it is open means healthcare providers who choose to download the software can see and scrutinise the code before it is used in a live environment, which actually further enhances the safety of it."

In October last year, the trust in Taunton and Somerset said it had commenced "exploratory work" around expanding its use of open source technology to include an e-prescribing solution based around code provided by Slovenia-based Marand.

Trust IT director Malcolm Senior at the time said that the move down an open source route had initially required work in convincing the organisation's Board that a non-proprietary solution was the right way to go, based on the opportunity to build a more bespoke solution supported by the supplier.

Senior argued that the open source approach had both cost and flexibility benefits for the trust, but did require significant work up front to better realise opportunities available.

"The costs are much better from adopting open source [compared to a proprietary system], but you have to step up and do more with this approach," he said.

Related articles:

Taunton and Somerset trust explores wider open source adoption

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